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Column: 5 ways to get a career that makes you happy

We are all living longer and looking for work to support our lifestyle – so how do we do it? Clare Mulligan explains.

Clare Mulligan

THE WORKPLACE IS changing and so are we. We are all living longer and looking for work to support our lifestyle and that we can continue to work in past the traditional retirement age. We are also looking for work that meets our psychological needs and will allow us to be satisfied and happy – both now and in the future.

It’s important that we realise that our career and its direction is managed by ourselves and not by an employer. To manage your career, it is vital to start with a process of self-refection so that you can know yourself and your ambitions clearly. By looking at your career plans in a holistic way and taking some time to really understand yourself, making a decision about your future career path becomes easier. You will find that you will also have more confidence in any transition that needs to be made.

Here are five ways of getting to know yourself better so you can plan a career that makes you happy.

1. Review your values.

Values are beliefs and they affect your attitudes and goals and, ultimately, your behaviour. Understanding your values will enable you to reflect on what is important to you and why it is important. Also knowing the priority of your own values will serve as a guideline for your career goals.  Be clear what is important to you in your career – for example do you want satisfaction, autonomy, financial success, flexibility, promotion, status, or a challenge? ( to name just a few examples).

List what is important to you in your career and your wider life and be clear about this as you then think of what type of job you might go for. If you want flexibility and a physical challenge then maybe a corporate office job is not for you, whereas if you want teamwork and security then it may suit you. If you find that values such as freedom, autonomy, independence, then it may be worth considering career options such as self-employment, consultancy or a portfolio career.

2.   Identity

Often when we meet someone, the first question we ask or get asked is ‘what do you do?’ and we then describe our job. However, we can all wear a few identities in our life. Consider all your identities – some examples may be sister, mother, brother, husband, football player, friend, accountant, volunteer, salesperson, IT consultant etc. Think about how you act, portray or are perceived in all these roles, and you can realise that you have a different perception of each of these roles.

If you reflect on each identity and try to understand what you feel about one, or what you like about it, or even why you thought of that identity.  This is a step to understanding yourself and learning to see what fits you best..

3. Strengths

Reflect on your past career history and consider your own strengths and specific areas you enjoyed in past roles. What tasks or projects from your past did you enjoy or did you excel at? Where there certain environments or groups or people did you work best with? What key achievements can you think of? Thinking about this will give you ideas for further career opportunities that would match times you were working in line with your preferred strengths and abilities.

4.   Network

Networking is now even more critical to future success, but you should also ensure you are strategic about where you network and who you want to meet. You should network to find out what others are doing, or to get inspiration for career opportunities. If you have an idea for a possible role or career that may suit you, then find a network where people who are working in that sector do attend. Prepare your questions and then find someone who does that role and ask them about it.

Networking, as well as building contacts, will allow you to research and learn from others. Support effective networking with having contact/business cards ready to swap with new acquaintances and ensure your LinkedIn profile is up to date.

5. Think outside the box

Have you considered other ways of working, rather than just full time with one employer? Can you work part time in your current role? Is your ideal career made up of a portfolio of three or four different jobs? Do you need to retrain? Have you got an idea for a lifestyle career? Can you skills be used in a different sector? Can you collaborate with others on a business idea?

Technology and changing workplaces are allowing different opportunities to the way we work so don’t just think of the one perfect job… there may be more than one!

Clare Mulligan is an Organisational Psychologist and researches workplace trends and the impact these trends and demographic shifts for the way we work. She uses her business experience and psychological insights to provide a new approach to career development, with a special focus on encouraging individuals to take a holistic view of their life and career to find careers that suit their whole life, including exploring possible self-employment, portfolio careers or consultancy/freelancing. This training is often used to meet the values of Generation Y, but also people facing redundancy and retirement.

Clare can be contacted at clare@claremulliganconsulting.ie or via her website www.claremulliganconsulting.ie

About the author:

Clare Mulligan

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